China and CEE countries’ goals and interests towards the BRI implementation in the CEE region

How can Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), the European Union (EU) and EU member states (EU MS) address opportunities and challenges of the 17+1 Platform?

 

Executive Summary

The research shows that Central and Eastern European countries included in the 17+1 Platform (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece[1], Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia) are lacking both a national and a common foreign policy strategy towards China. At the same time, the EU is also lacking its own comprehensive strategy to address the influence of China in the CEE region, although it recently developed an EU-wide strategy “Connecting Europe and Asia”[2].

A challenge in the existing literature is the scarcity of comprehensive academic assessments of the relations between the CEE countries and China, which is why this research aims to propose recommendations for an overarching coordinated political response to Chinese actors in the CEE region. The recommendations will be focused on addressing opportunities and threats stemming out of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for the individual CEE countries, 17+1 Platform and EU as a unit.

In order to illustrate the potential developments of the 17+1 Platform and CEE-China relations four distinctive scenarios were developed as illustration of the spectrum of possible future developments allowing policy makers to make informed strategic decisions and anticipate surprises. Each scenario is supported by few of overall 11 hypotheses, focused on:

  • results of the 17+1 Platform,
  • relevance of the CEE region for China,
  • benefits of the 17+1 Platform,
  • 17+1 Platform in relation to Europe and its strategic importance for future cohesion and cooperation in Europe and the EU.

The study enables the CEE and the EU to coordinate their foreign policy on China in order to strengthen their strategic position in relation to the BRI. The study provides analytical support to business and financial decision-makers, as well as It advances the political and academic discourse on the future of relations between the CEE countries, the EU and China.

The four scenarios of the possible future developments of the 17+1 Platform and CEE-China relations are Rocky Rose”, “Friends in Need”, “Eyes Wide Shutand Power Shift. They are presented separately in the next paragraphs, together with a selection of supporting hypotheses which are a subject of research in this chapter.

GRAPH 1: Four Possible Future Developments

Scenario 1: “Rocky Rose”

The “Rocky Rose” scenario unfolds in a world characterized by strong results of the 17+1 Platform and weak relations between China and the CEE region.

  • “The 17+1 Platform brings results but does not fulfil the expectations of the CEECs.”
  • “Subregions of the CEE region represent different strategic goals, comparative advantage and serve different objectives of Chinese foreign policy towards Europe, following regionalization with Chinese characteristics.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform benefits the European Union as it helps to promote the balanced regional development of the EU.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform is complementary to multilateral cooperation in Europe.”

Scenario 2: “Power Shift”

The “Power Shift” scenario unfolds in a world characterized by strong relations between China and CEE region and strong results of the 17+1 Platform.

  • “The 17+1 platform has delivered political results and benefits according to the expectations of the CEECs.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform benefits China to improve the perception of global actor.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform improves the quality and efficiency of bilateral cooperation between China and CEEC.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform is complementary to multilateral cooperation in Europe.”

Scenario 3: “Eyes Wide Shut”

The “Eyes Wide Shut” scenario unfolds in a world characterized by strong relations between China and CEE region and weak results of the 17+1 Platform.

  • “The CEE region is of strategic importance for China.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform has not delivered sufficient results for the CEECs.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform is a threat to the cohesion and stability of the EU.”

 

Scenario 4: “Friends in Need”

The “Friends in Need” scenario unfolds in a world characterized by weak relations between China and CEE region and weak results of the 17+1 Platform.

  • “The 17+1 Platform has not delivered sufficient results for the CEEC region.”
  • “The 17+1 Platform is not of strategic importance for the future cohesion or cooperation in Europe.”

[1] Greece has joined the 16+1 Platform in April 2019. The mechanism will change its name into 17+1 Platform due to the enlargement. The term 16+1 Platform is still coherently used in this research when looks at the platform’s development before Greece joined. The term 17+1 Platform is only used when referring to the mechanism’s development after April 2019.

[2] EEAS, Connecting Europe and Asia: EU Strategy (Brussels, 2018).

Scroll to Top